I really enjoyed The Last Wolf, so I was excited to read about one of the "Offland" wolves in Maria Vale's second novel. My conclusion, after reading A Wolf Apart, is that this book isn't for me. As I noted in that first review, Vale's pacing is a bit different than the romance novels I'm used to, which threw me at first but was fine once I settled in. This one never quite found its romance novel footing, however, missing some beats that I needed in order to believe the romance between the two main characters. I also wanted to slap the hero most of the time, but more on that later.
Elijah is a lawyer in NYC, a few hours south and a world away from where the pack lives in the Adirondacks. The book is told entirely from his point of view, so it didn't strike me as that weird that it took us many many pages to meet the heroine. During that time, however, we get a very detailed view of Elijah's city life. He gathers dirt and blackmails politicians to get them to vote the way the pack needs, so he's got a bit of a Robin Hood thing going. But he also has meaningless sex with a lot of women as a way of increasing his social stature. We know it's meaningless because he comments frequently on how he doesn't want these women, how their fake breasts disgust him, how fake all of them are... He even has a special hotel room or apartment (I don't recall which) set aside that he takes these women to before leaving them in the morning with a silk robe.
Why do they each get a silk robe? Because he uses the same pickup line on every one of them. "Your skin is so soft. You should never wear anything but silk."
Women are interchangeable to Elijah and um... I'm a woman. I know I'm supposed to view each of these women as social climbers who are only using him for his body or whatever, but as the saying goes, "if everyone's an asshole to you... maybe you're the asshole." When we finally meet Thea, he's instantly obsessed. I have no idea why she likes him, just that they do eventually exchange "I love you" and she doesn't shoot him when she discovers he's a wolf.
There's a line in the book that's repeated a few times, "she's not saying yes, but she's not saying no." That set off my rape spidey-sense and, though I know everything was consensual, I got really skeeved out every time I read it.
And finally, his clothes. I know his entire schtick is that he's got to swing his big dick around with the rest of the big dicks in NYC, but did I need to read the brand and style of each item of his designer clothing? So that you know what I mean, here's an example:
With a twist, her long, strong fingers open one button on my waistcoat (three-button, black). Then another. Then one more.
She feels around for the end of my tie (textured silk, semi-butterfly) and fulls. Inserting a finger in the loosened knot, she drags it down until the ends hang around the collar of my shirt (Royal Oxford, forward point, no wings)...
And so on. I was supposed to be thinking about their sexual tension, but instead I was pulled entirely out of several scenes.
As before, the strongest points of Vale's writing are her worldbuilding and the pack characterization. Vale's done her research on wolves, and her pack dynamics remain the same from the first book to this second. As a romance, this novel didn't work for me, but maybe as a journey of self-discovery on the part of a truly lost hero? Maybe that would have done it.
I will admit, however, that I'm not big on reading alpha males these days and Elijah is doubly alpha - alpha in his pack and playing the role of alpha male in the NYC political scene.
Content Warnings: Disordered eating (he purges after meals), murder, misogyny, stalking, dangerous pregnancy for a secondary character.